Markets will always be conversations, so I don’t fully agree with Jeremiah Owyang

Home Markets will always be conversations, so I don’t fully agree with Jeremiah Owyang

I am a dedicated follower of the work of the Altimeter research group. I love to read the opinions and research reports of their analysts. So, you can imagine how curious I was when I saw the headline of the latest interview with Jeremiah Owyang. It said ‘markets are no longer conversations’. Let’s say he caught my attention with that quote.

I strongly recommend to take a look at this 15 minute interview, because it has some thought provoking ideas and opinions in it.I would like to give my view on two of his statements from the interview.

“We will have uber-targeted advertisement & content”

Jeremiah states that we can expect a new form of advertising. Because companies like Google and Facebook have the ability to track our behavior, they can send very targeted forms of content (advertising) to the places we visit on the internet.

I agree with this point of view. Just imagine the amount of information you provide about your personal interests during one day online. It is enormous. If Facebook and Google can avoid the ‘big brother’ feeling among internet users, this information can create unseen opportunities for the advertising industry.

On the one hand, you can state that this is a positive evolution as the relevance of advertising will increase and so will its impact. On the other hand, it limits the opportunities for all of us to bump into interesting content by accident.

“Markets are no longer conversations”

According to Jeremiah, the arrival of the perfect target advertising implies the end of the Cluetrain statement ‘markets are conversations’. I’m afraid I don’t agree with this. In the interview Jeremiah states that he will piss off Cluetrain lovers :), but that has nothing to do with it. I truly believe this is a wrong assumption.

Here are some arguments why I can’t agree with this:

    • If we talk about ‘markets are conversations’, that goes beyond the social web for me. The majority of the conversations with impact on brand behavior are held offline. Millions of people talk about products and brands with each other and influence each other’s buying behavior. These conversations have always been here and they increase thanks to the social web.
    • Looking at online conversations, for me the internet is a place where people connect with other people. Brands and companies come in second line. Even if the advertising becomes extremely targeted, that does not mean that people will stop sharing their personal experiences about products and services with their online friends. We know from research, that the information that comes from a peer scores higher in level of trust than the information that comes from a brand (even if it is targeted).
    • Finally, the targeted ads are a perfect conversation starter. The moment that advertising becomes relevant, people start to share it. This increases the overall reach, but also the overall impact of the message.

In all three situations, people connect with people and they share brand experiences that may influence other people. Targeted advertising is an important new tactic that brands can use to trigger consumer conversations.

My view on the future of social media: consumer integration

Furthermore, I think that the behavioral tracking will not be sufficient to increase the advertising effectiveness. Tracking someone’s behavior to better target advertisement is using technology in a smart way. But strong advertising is about emotions, touching the heart and soul of the target audience. Even though the targeting becomes easier, we will still suffer from the ‘relevance’ question. How can we make the content relevant?

If you target people in a perfect way, it becomes even more important to get the content right. The only solution is involving the consumer in the creative process. The future of social media marketing is not about having new technology at our disposal, it is about connecting with consumers. Companies who can integrate the voice of the customer in their decision flows, will have a double effect:

1. The decisions will improve: by involving the right consumer, you have a higher chance of doing the right thing.

2. By involving consumers, you create a small army of brand ambassadors. People really get enthusiastic if they are part of a team. If you can make them part of your team, they will help you where they can.

For me the future of social media is not about technology, it is about consumer integration. Creating a new marketing organization where you keep a free seat for the client. A marketing organization without stone walls, but one where it is less clear where the company ends and where the market begins.